Sleep is a nature’s mechanism to restart your body. It is a process that fuels your body while you put your mind and body to rest. Many of us fail to recognise that we are suffering from a sleep disorder. Feelings of tiredness during the day even though you feel that you slept during the night may indicate that you are suffering from a sleep disorder in such cases.
Other sleep disorders may be more obvious to the sufferer because the sufferer finds it difficult to fall asleep or experiences repeated episodes of waking up during the night. Sleep disorders can be very troubling for the sufferer because they are deprived of the most peaceful part of the day and this may interfere with the quality of their life. Poor sleep may also hint at chronic disease states like diabetes or a minor or serious psychiatric disorder. It may have a negative impact on your energy level and emotional state during the day.
Types of Sleep Disorders
The inability to find peace during the process of sleeping may present in many forms. For the sufferer, all sleep disorders may feel the same and they will complain of sleep problems hampering their daily life. The first step towards managing this problem in recognising which type of sleep disorder you are suffering from. Here is a list of a few sleep disorders that are commonly experienced by people:
1. Insomnia: It is Latin for ‘no sleep’. When a person fails to fall asleep or experiences difficulty in staying asleep, it is termed insomnia. Other indicators include not feeling refreshed after waking up in the morning.
2. Narcolepsy: It is a condition where the sufferer experiences bouts of excessive sleepiness throughout the day. It can be accompanied by sudden muscle weakness called cataplexy, insomnia, dream-like hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Episodes of these ‘sleep spells’ can occur at odd circumstances. This condition is caused by an inability of the brain to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
3. Restless leg syndrome: In this condition the person experiences a certain creeping sensation in their legs along with aches, which makes it difficult for them to fall asleep.
4. Sleep apnoea: Some people have problems with sleeping because their breathing gets interrupted during their sleep. When breathing gets suspended, they make gasping or snorting noises in sleep.
5. Hypersomnia: People who experience excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep may suffer from a condition called hypersomnia. These people are compelled to nap during odd times without any triggering causes like interrupted sleep or fatigue. They may feel disoriented after waking up from such naps.
6. Bruxism: People suffering from a condition in which they involuntarily grind their teeth during sleeping or while awake are suffering from bruxism. These people might have trouble sleeping due to jaw pain or soreness along with erosion of teeth enamel due to this condition.
7. Nocturia: It is a condition where the person feels the urge to urinate at night especially while sleeping thus disturbing their sleep.
8. Night terrors: It is a condition experienced by children between ages of 4 to 12 where the child gets up during sleep and screams while sweating and breathing heavily and the child is unable to recall the reason for their frightening reaction upon waking up.
9. Somnambulism: It is a condition where the person can walk around in their sleep. Many times they can even open doors and climb stairs in a sleep walking state.
10. Circadian rhythm disorders: These can be caused in conditions that interfere with melatonin secretion disturbing your 24-hour sleep wake cycle. They may occur in conditions like jet lag, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues.
We must be aware of the fact that people in different age groups have different requirements for the hours that they invest in sleeping. A 2-month old infant requires 12-18 hours of sleep while for an adolescent adult, 7-9 hours is sufficient to keep them fresh all day. A good night’s sleep can do wonders to make you function well. The act of promotion of regular sleep is known as sleep hygiene. Interrupted or insufficient sleep can alter the functioning of your daily life in many ways. Here are a few tips to maintain good sleep hygiene:
- Try following a schedule and go to bed at the same time everyday
- Sleep in a dark and silent room without any disturbances to wake you up
- Make sure that the temperature of your room is neither too hot nor too cold.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed that prevents any discomfort while sleeping or after waking up
- Make sure that you do not use your bed for other activities like studying, watching TV etc. Use your bed solely for sleeping purposes.
- Remove television, computers and other gadgets from your room that might distract you and make you fall asleep late.
- Avoid doing heavy exercise before bed time
- Avoid heavy meals before bed time
- Avoid taking naps during the day because it disturbs night-time sleep.
- Avoid smoking before falling asleep, as nicotine is a stimulant for your brain.
If you are observing a loved one snore in bed or talk in their sleep or if you are suffering from these symptoms, you must seek help from a medical practitioner. There are several treatment options available for treatment of sleep disorders:
- Sleep apnoea can be prevented by losing weight as obesity is a contributing factor for causing sleep apnoea. Palate surgery or adenoid surgery can also help in cases with airway obstruction.
- Somnambulism for children should be monitored and the children should be put at a lesser risks by locking their doors and keeping them at a distance from harmful objects which they may accidently walk into.
- Light-phase shift therapy: This a treatment option that is available for people with an altered circadian rhythm. This is the sleep-wake cycle, which is controlled by the secretion of melatonin. Exposing individuals to bright light from a light box or bright sunlight can help to put the sleep schedule back to normal.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This treatment option can also be applied to people who are suffering from serious problems with their sleep. When combined with sleep medication, CBT has been proven to be more successful in reducing sleep latency.
- Medication: Sleeping pills and hypnotics like zolpidem, alprazolam, etc may help you with sleep problems if taken for a short period of time under the supervision of a doctor. They should not be used on a daily basis as they have a tendency to cause dependence and tolerance. They cannot help with long-term insomnia and should be used on short term, basis only.
- Psychotherapy: Counselling and psychotherapy can be very effective in helping you reduce your tension, worry, anxiety or depression that may contributing to your stress levels and keeping your body in arousal. Counselling also gives you the skills to be able to tackle your problems effectively and help you improve your overall health.
Sleep is a luxury and a necessity. Sufficient sleep is a sign of good health so make sure you follow sleep hygiene to maintain a normal lifestyle.
If you’re suffering from insomnia or a sleep disorder, the counsellors and psychologists at Australia Counselling can help. We have counsellors and psychologists in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and regional areas of Australia. Visit our sleep difficulties page to see counsellors that work with this issue, or search via location, area of practice or therapeutic approach.
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